Not only does Interactive Marketing have much in common with Liberty Accounts – they are both pioneering, innovation-driven companies, with an emphasis on customer relations – its founder Keith Owen credits Liberty for inspiring him to elevate his business into a cloud-based service.
“I was having these phone conversations with Liberty about their accountancy software in 2008 and they explained everything so well and professionally that I realised how businesses can now be run entirely remotely,” says Owens. It pushed me towards thinking: maybe my clients would benefit from that kind of approach. I thought, if Liberty is in the cloud, why can’t we be too?’ Now, I actually can’t imagine my company working in any other way”
Owen, who has worked in the motor industry for decades, working his way from apprentice to an after-sales director, created Interactive Marketing to handle customer relationships and database management on behalf of a wide roster of clients. If you have received a phone call reminding you that your MOT is due or an invitation to the launch of a new vehicle, one of Owen’s team is most probably behind it.
Again much like Liberty, Owen says he is proud of the fact that most of the work his company does comes from referrals and recommendations and that his company still has customers who have been with it since the very beginning nearly 20 years ago.
“Liberty instantly provided us with the best possible service for us and our clients. The immediate draw was that it was the most cost-effective package I could find that included PAYE as part of its components,” says Owen. “With all the others on the market I found we had to buy the accounting package and then buy the wages facility as a bolt-on.”
However, he says that he quickly realised that there were even better benefits of using Liberty, than simply the cost. “The main reason that I am an even bigger fan of Liberty today is that I know if I have any sort of problem I can pick up the phone or send them an email and someone knowledgable will get straight back with a suggestion or advice. In this regard they are really unlike any IT company I know. And in my business, that peace of mind is really important to me.”
Interactive Marketing is an outbound customer service company, so on one hand it is all about volume. “We are probably one of biggest such companies in the British car market. Every day my team has to make an enormous number of calls throughout the country,” says Owen. But long-term relationships with clients are crucial too – one poor phone call could lose you a customer forever.
He says that to avoid the high staff turnover associated with traditional call centres and to give a much higher level of customer service, it is important to have full-time, salaried employees. After growing steadily since its launch – and negotiating a tricky patch for the motor industry in the late Noughties – Interactive Marketing took on its hundredth employee earlier this year.
So it is perhaps unsurprising that Owen says that although he does use the whole package, the payroll services remains the number one benefit for his company. “Before we used Liberty, we had twenty members of staff and it would take someone a whole day to run payroll. Now it takes the same time to do five times that amount, which is obviously great for us”
Moreover, he says he is impressed that Liberty has kept subtly refining its systems over the years. “I think the software has become more intuitive and they have cut out some of the steps in processes to give users a faster, simpler product. “This very much chimes with what our company has tried to do in the sense that we’re always looking for a better path to generate higher returns for our clients. And we’re always developing our people, which leads to better quality.
The overarching change to Owen’s business model, of course, is the remote-working aspect. “Liberty has really helped us embrace the whole idea of remote working,” he says. Every one of us is home-based, and we are really seeing the time-saving and cost-saving benefits of remote presentations, conference calls. We are probably travelling around 50,000 fewer miles a year now because of remote presentations. It is really important for everyone to have whatever information they need at their fingertips wherever they happen to be”.